Former Minister of Finance Pierre Gramegna was a guest on RTL Radio on Saturday afternoon.
Gramegna, who was succeeded as Minister of Finance by Yuriko Backes earlier this week, declared during his interview that he is not planning on retiring completely from professional life.
However, the former minister and diplomat stated that he does not have any concrete plans yet. While he was still a minister, Gramegna explained, he did not have time to think about potential future plans but now he considers himself “fit” and equipped with “a lot of experience” to help the country and the financial centre, if the opportunity arises.
When asked whether it would not be better to wait some time before taking on a new job after being a government official, Gramegna replied that the ‘cooling off period’ has become a custom.
However, he also stressed that, in his own opinion, a minister should be free to work after their mandate, as long as a certain balance is ensured, and a new position does not present a “blatant conflict of interest”.
In the future, Gramegna intends to “commute” a bit more between Luxembourg and his “second home” Italy, but the politician stressed that the Grand Duchy would remain his main residence.
Gramegna thinks that as an experienced diplomat, his successor Yuriko Backes has exactly the right qualifications to take over the position of Minister of Finance.
In retrospect, and as a piece of advice for the new minister, Gramegna stated that a minister of finance in a three-way coalition has to adapt a centrist attitude.
“You’re constantly asked for money”, Gramegna explained, which is why it is essential to not just exclusively favour projects from your own party.
Ministers must act “in the public interest”. Gramegna also rejected all rumours suggesting there are conflicts within the governing coalition.
Luxleaks: An ‘attack not seen since World War II’
Looking back over the past years, Gramegna admitted that he would have liked to accelerate certain tax reforms, notably individualisation.
When asked about whether it would make sense to automatically adjust tax tables to inflation, an idea which is to be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, the former minister of finance stated that this would mainly benefit those “who make a lot of money and cost the state a lot”.
Gramegna defended his time in office, including public debt and the efforts to repair Luxembourg’s reputation as a financial centre. Gramegna described the 2013 Luxleaks affair as “an attack not seen since World War II”.
However, the politician admitted that “not everything was in order” and went on to list all of the measures and new regulations that have been taken since then to remove Luxembourg from all grey or black lists.
Luxembourg’s international character must be held in ‘high esteem’
Pierre Gramegna thinks that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us two “exceptional” lessons. Regarding climate, he thinks that after the lockdown, even the staunchest sceptics must have realised that climate change is indeed caused by human activity.
The second lesson is that society has seen that telework is a feasible concept. In his final speech in the Chamber of Deputies, Gramegna described Luxembourg as a “gem” and urged MPs to “take care” of it.
In his eyes, Luxembourg’s international character must always be held in high esteem. Gramegna stressed that the economy and the financial centre must be further diversified, and the country’s image must be “protected”.
Regarding housing, Gramegna stated that “various different measures” are necessary but also pointed out that people should realise that the low interest rates made real estate “very attractive” which makes it very difficult to satisfy demand. Gramegna thinks that high inflation will remain a major issue for his successor too.
At the end of the interview, Gramegna took the opportunity to thank Prime Minister Xavier Bettel but also his staff members at the Ministry of Finance and “of course” his family.
Gramegna also shared an anecdote about his grandfather, who came to Luxembourg as an Italian immigrant around 100 years ago, and whose final words before passing away were: “The best thing that happened to me in my life was Luxembourg”.
This goes to show how “incredibly exceptional” Luxembourg is as “an open country”.
Read More: Former Minister of Finance: Pierre Gramegna defends record, signals intent to remain